On the Occasion of World Soil Day, Dr. Mike McLaughlin discusses his Cutting-Edge Fertilizer Research, the Huge Potential of Subsoil Nutrient Management, and gives an Insight into Global Soil Health
By IFA Editor on December 12, 2017
 






IFA: Can you tell us about some of the research that you are currently working on?
M. McLaughlin: We are working on new fertilizer formulations that are more efficient, thus increasing uptake and reducing losses to the environment.

A current focus is micronutrients, specifically zinc and boron, which are essential for crop growth and flowering. We are exploring ways to use new materials that better synchronize their release with the needs of plants.

For example, boron can leach through the soil very quickly. To counter this, we have developed a material that offers both fast and slow release boron to better match the needs of crops. For zinc, we have developed a simple manufacturing process that increases its solubility in fertilizer and offers better early growth to crops.

Some of the techniques we research are simple ideas that seem obvious, while others are a bit more whacky. We work with chemical engineers and materials scientists and are looking at using some of the newest materials available, such as Graphene which was only discovered in 2004.

IFA: Speaking at IFA’s recent Strategic Forum in Zurich in November you said that subsoil management will be the next frontier in crop nutrition. Can you tell us more about this?
M. McLaughlin: We have been adding fertilizers for over 100 years but we have only been adding fertilizer to the soil’s surface. Nutrients that aren’t very mobile, like phosphorus, potassium, zinc and manganese, don’t penetrate into the soil profile. As a result, plants suffer from a lack of these nutrients if the topsoil dries out.

The aim is to manage subsoils to make then more fertile so that if topsoil dries out, crops can still access nutrients and water from the subsoil. The big challenge is to deliver nutrients at depth (from 20 to 60cm). At the moment, it requires a lot of mechanical power, for example using large tractors, which means it can be quite costly.

But it looks, from the experiments that have been done recently, that it really does pay off. Research in Australia has shown that if deep nutrients are added the yield can increase from 50 to 100 %, so the potential is huge.

This isn’t something that would be done every year, but once every 10 to 15 years it could be a very good way to do a ‘soil renovation’ that adds lots of nutrients at depth and spreads that cost over a long period and lifts the yield potential.

We are currently working on formulating subsoil fertilizers and looking into how to design fertilizers that can move down into the subsoil from the surface.

IFA: As a leading soil fertility scientist, what would you say are currently the biggest challenges to global soil fertility and health?
M. McLaughlin: In Africa and parts of Central and South America, the biggest issues are access to fertilizers, the infrastructure for transporting them and getting fertilizer that are cost effective for smallholder farmers. Soil fertility in these regions is low so lifting the fertility of these soils from low to medium can make a huge difference to crop production.

In the developed world, growers are starting to manage the landscape in a precise way – a lot of farmers now have monitors to measure yields and productivity. There is a big opportunity for sensors that can measure soil fertility at the same scale as crop production so that we can start to manage the soil precisely as well.

We have been applying nutrients for than 100 years now. We need to make sure that we don’t apply too much – it’s important that we use the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place so that we don’t over fertilize.

Another issue is the decline in soil organic matter, which is bad for soil structure and its water holding capacity. While it’s important that we minimize tillage to conserve organic matter in the soil, there is also the potential problem of having nutrients stratified in the soil.

IFA: What more can the fertilizer industry and farmers do to improve soil health?
M. McLaughlin: The food for soil biology is carbon and that carbon generally only comes from crops. For example, compost comes from plants as does manure, via the animal that has eaten them.

If you add carbon to the soil this means that it has been taken from somewhere else; unless you grow a big crop. In healthy crops, for every 2 to 3 tonnes of carbon above ground, there will generally be 1 or more tonnes of carbon below ground in the roots and root exudates.

The more healthy crops that are grown, the more carbon is kept in the soil in the form of retained residue. So the best way to inject carbon into the soil is to grow healthy plants, retain residue and minimise tillage.

There isn’t a magic bullet to improve soil health. Soil health is all about the diversity of crops and getting carbon into the soil by growing big crops.

 

About Dr Mike McLaughlin:


Professor Mike McLaughlin is a Professor at the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and Director of Fertiliser Technology Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, and a Science Fellow in Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Dr. McLaughlin has over 30 years of experience in soil fertility and plant nutrition research, covering more than three continents starting first in Africa, and then in Australia and Southeast Asia. His research has a global impact and coverage. In 2015 Professor McLaughlin won the IFA Norman Borlaug Award .


     
 
How a Local Sustainability Program is Helping to Lift Indonesian Smallholder Cocoa Producers out of Poverty
By IFA Editor on November 7, 2017
 




IFA: Why did you decide to set up Cocoa Care and choose to base it in Sulawesi?
N. Janetski: Community Solutions International has been operating in Sulawesi since 2009 working with cocoa farming families as a part of our Cocoa Paper business, we make a range of stationery products from waste cocoa tree bark, so it was a natural extension to set up Cocoa Care there too.

Through our Cocoa Paper work, we recognized Cocoa Farming families were really struggling to lift themselves out of extremely difficult situations and we saw an opportunity to help. Cocoa Care was created to allow any individual, company or organization in any part of the work to engage with Indonesian cocoa farming families and provide assistance with tools, materials, training and support to help these families onto a path toward a sustainable economic future.

IFA: What are the main challenges for cocoa producers worldwide?
N. Janetski: Low productivity is the biggest issue as it drives the economics of cacao farming as a sustainable agribusiness. Increasing productivity requires better trained farmers managing more professional farming operations that employ land in the most efficient way, with high productivity clonal cacao varieties, and applying good agricultural practices including pruning, efficient soil and water management practices, and the effective control of pests and diseases. Cacao farmers should manage more diverse farms with other crops or livestock to reduce dependence on one commodity.

Technology is another factor that could support the kind of increases in productivity that will be required to underpin a truly sustainable cocoa production system. As competition for arable land increases with rising demand for food and climate change imposes new challenges, it will be increasingly important to grow more cacao in more efficient ways on less land.

IFA: Can you put Indonesian cocoa farming in a global context – how does it compare to other regions?
N. Janetski: Indonesia has a rich history of cacao farming being one of the first places that cacao was grown outside of its origin countries in South America but it largely died off due to disease and the main African growing countries took over the lead.

Today, the Ivory Coast is by far the biggest producer with around 1.6 million T annual production of dry cacao “beans”, Ghana is second with 800,000 T production and Indonesia is third with currently around 350,000 T production. The total world production is 4 Million T.

Indonesian production peaked at over 600,000 T in 2006 and has declined since then due to the cumulative effects of poor farm management, ageing trees, declining soil fertility and the impacts of pests and diseases.

IFA: How can NGOs and the inputs sector better support cocoa producers in Indonesia and internationally?
N. Janetski: Historically, some NGOs tend to focus on short-term training programs as the key to driving change. Responsible sector stakeholders with a long-term view of the need to establish a truly sustainable cacao farming system will help farmers to get the knowledge they need, invest in resolving key issues of planting material quality and soil management practices and work together with communities and government to provide an enabling environment for development. This may require short term contractual relationships with farmers or farmer groups to support a viable commercial interaction, but should be aimed at overcoming short-term investment needs rather than creating a closed supply chain system.

There is a clear need for further investment in technology, particularly as it relates to land use, productivity and efficiency in consideration of best management practices for the environment, particularly water impact, and society.

Read more about Cocoa Care’s work in partnership with IPNI in IFA’s latest Fertilizers & Agriculture newsletter here.

 

About Noel Janetski:


Noel Janetski has been involved with cocoa and chocolate for more than 30 years, in research and development and various business development and management roles. He has lived in Indonesia for the past 18 years. He was instrumental in the development of one of the largest ongoing cocoa sustainability activities in Indonesia and a key driver in the formation of the Indonesian Cocoa Sustainability Partnership.

About Cocoa Care:

Cocoa Care is a scalable sustainability program aimed at raising the living standards and productivity of cocoa farmers in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Funded by private and institutional sponsors, it helps poor farming families achieve economic sustainability by providing up-to-date farm management techniques and community support.


     
 
Developing Innovative Agricultural Products for Smallholder Farmers in Eastern Africa
By IFA Editor on October 2, 2017
 





One Acre Fund is a nonprofit organization that supplies smallholder farmers in East Africa with asset-based financing and agriculture training services to reduce hunger and poverty. The organization also runs a research and development program to develop new products and services for their customers.

IFA: Can you tell us about some of the most promising agricultural products that you are currently trialing or that have recently completed the test phase?
P. Bell: During the Long Rains 2018 season, we are offering agricultural lime as a "core product" in our Kenya Program. This means that more than 350,000 clients, all smallholder farmers, will have access to this highly impactful product.

It has taken several years of trialing to determine the correct amount and methods of application, as well as to find the best way to market it. A large proportion of our clients - and many farmers in East Africa - are growing crops in acidic soils.

We've also just scaled up a Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) resistant hybrid maize variety as a "core product." MLND affects many farmers in the areas we serve. Our trials have indicated substantial impact in areas where MLND is present.

Still in our trial phases, I'm pretty excited about a few highland rice varieties. This is a new area for our work in Kenya. Rice prices in East Africa have risen due to a substantial increase in demand, which could translate into a lot of impact for clients.

IFA: Once a product has passed the trial phase, what is the next stage and how is it rolled out to customers?
P. Bell: Once a product has passed our first three innovation phases and has shown impact, the product is included in our core program catalogue. This catalogue contains all the impactful products (fertilizer, seeds, lime and Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) Bags) that One Acre Fund offers to clients.

This catalogue is used by our Field Officers during enrollment and marketing who sign farmers onto our program and help them choose products. As the growing seasons gets closer, we deliver products within walking distance of clients. At this time, Field Officers shift roles and begin training farmers on improved agricultural practices and how to make the best use of the products just delivered.

IFA: How do you choose which innovations to pursue? What criteria do you use for judging whether an agricultural innovation would work or be beneficial in Kenya?
P. Bell: The first step is identifying the challenges that our clients are facing. Once we find a potential innovation that would address these challenges, we then evaluate it for its potential impact.

Impact is the net dollar increase clients will gain from purchasing or using the potential innovation. Within the process, we also evaluate the potential complexity and client preferences for the innovation. We want to make sure that it is impactful, but also that we can fully realize that impact through effective training and client use of the innovation.

IFA: As a trained soil scientist and manager of One Acre Fund's internal soil analytical laboratory, what type of innovations do you think could be introduced to improve soils in East Africa?
P. Bell: In the near team, we are very excited about lime and custom-blend fertilizers. For many smallholder farmers in East Africa, access to lime has huge potential for sustainable soil management. Without access to and use of it, many farmers will not see optimal returns on their other investments in soil management.

We are also very excited about the potential for custom-blend fertilizers. Moving away from blanket fertilizer recommendations for entire regions in East Africa and more towards custom recommendations and fertilizers could improve soil nutrient management in a big way.

 

About Patrick Bell:


Patrick Bell is the Product Innovations Senior Manager for One Acre Fund - Kenya, based in Kakamega, Kenya. He leads the Product Innovations team, which includes a broad range of R&D portfolios including agriculture, livestock, solar, market access, and health. Previously, Patrick served as a U.S. Borlaug Fellow in Global Food Security in Tanzania, worked as a Program Manager for the USAID-funded Innovative Agriculture Research Initiative (iAGRI), and was a consultant in Climate Smart Agriculture for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Patrick received his PhD in Soil Science from the Carbon Sequestration and Management Center at The Ohio State University, and his M.S., M.Ag., and B.S. from Oklahoma State University.


     
 
Fertilizer Trends, Agricultural Opportunities and the Importance of Secondary and Macro Nutrients in South Asia
By IFA Editor on September 5, 2017
 




IFA:
Can you briefly tell us your responsibilities and priorities as IPNI’s South Asian Director?

Dr. T. Satyanarayana: My responsibility in South Asia is to develop and promote improved nutrient management strategies for producing higher crop yields and better farm profits while ensuring safety to the environment through improving nutrient use efficiency.

Identifying key stakeholders and building partnerships is critical for the dissemination of improved nutrient management strategies. My current priority is to continue the existing partnerships with the national agricultural research and education systems, state agricultural universities, the fertilizer industry, state departments of agriculture, and others (the seed industry, producer companies, IT and commodity companies etc.). I also work to help share IPNI generated information with farmers in the region.

IFA: What would you say are some of the main trends in fertilizer use in India today?
Dr. T. Satyanarayana: Fertilizer consumption in India has increased over the past four decades from 5.5 Mt (1980-81) to 26.7 Mt (2015-16). The current average NPK consumption is still low however at 137 kg/ha. India’s future food production target to feed 1.4 billion by 2025 requires about 300 Mt of grain. Estimates suggest that fertilizer use needs to increase significantly to meet the growth in demand for food by 2025.

From January 7, 2015, the Indian government made it mandatory for all urea supplied to farmers to be neem coated. With neem coated urea, nitrogen would become available throughout crop growth and help in increasing crop yields and farm profits while improving N use efficiency. Neem coating prolongs the hydrolysis of urea and increases the nitrogen use efficiency. Since urea hydrolysis is prolonged, the plants stay greener for a longer time, which allows farmers to reduce the urea application rates to their fields. This move should reduce overall urea consumption in the country, reduce the subsidy burden on the government to some extent and promote balanced fertilization.

Potassium fertilizer use is less than 10% of the total nutrient consumption in the country, while evidence of crop K responses are widespread. Large-scale deficiencies of secondary and micronutrients have also been identified by national researchers, which would be critical to manage if food production targets are to be achieved. Considering the current inadequate and imbalanced fertilizer use in the country, there are a lot of fertilizer market opportunities in the sub-continent.

The government of India has introduced the national soil health program with an emphasis on site-specific nutrient management based on the results of soil testing. There has been a continuous campaign on promoting balanced fertilizer use, while farmers are gaining awareness about the use of secondary and micronutrients in addition to the application of major NPK nutrients.

Currently, fertilizer use is mainly confined to grain crops (67%), while oilseeds (9.6%), cotton (8.7%) and sugarcane (5.6%) have moderate levels of fertilizer consumption. Fruits (2%), vegetables (3%) and other crops (3.9%) see minimal fertilizer use. The specialty fertilizer market is evolving in the country with the introduction of water soluble fertilizers, crop or site specific customized fertilizers, slow and controlled release fertilizers, and biostimulants.

With an increased emphasis on mechanization, the right method of fertilizer application is being advocated such as banding, fertigation and foliar application, especially in high value crops. The country has witnessed a significant growth in the water-soluble fertilizer market from 9,600 MT (2002-03) to 178,000 Mt (2015-16), with the use mainly confined to fruits, vegetables and other high value crops.

IFA: How important are secondary and micronutrient fertilizers for agriculture in India?
Dr. T. Satyanarayana: Indian agriculture has made a paradigm shift, with increasing concerns about food, environmental and nutritional security - the application of secondary and micronutrients plays an important role in supporting this direction. The deficiency of micronutrients in soil strongly correlates to micronutrient deficiencies in humans and secondary and micronutrient deficiency in soils is rampant, taking a toll on the food and economic security of the country.

Recent studies suggest that historical cultivars have higher rates of assimilation of micronutrients into produce, whereas modern cultivars are less efficient in assimilating essential micronutrients. It is therefore important to apply adequate rates of micronutrients through soil or foliar application to ensure the better assimilation of these nutrients in the soil-plant-animal-human health continuum.

Studies on the response of applications of secondary and micronutrients revealed that S response increased from 9-23% in 1997 to 19-42% in 2006 in major crops grown in India, reflecting increasingly widespread S deficiencies. Considering the average response of zinc application across major crops, adequate Zn fertilizer use could contribute to 24.9 Mt of national food production, highlighting the importance of applying secondary and micro nutrients. Better agronomic management with secondary and micro nutrient application in the major crops of India could increase the market potential for secondary and micronutrient fertilizers.

IFA: What do you think are some of the biggest opportunities in agriculture in South Asia?
Dr. T. Satyanarayana: Our experience of working on-farm has shown the prevalence of significant yield gaps across crops due to imbalanced and inadequate fertilizer application. In South Asia, bridging such yield gaps across crops by managing nutrients scientifically is one of the biggest opportunities for governments to ensure food security and for the fertilizer industry to support them in achieving these goals.

The current level of food production could sustainably be increased through practicing 4R Nutrient Stewardship, the science of applying the right source of plant nutrients at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. This will ensure food and nutritional security in a sustainable way without jeopardizing environmental health.

Fertilizer use and nutrient management are primarily confined to grain crops with little attention given to other crop segments. More focus is needed on developing nutrient management, and evolving appropriate extension mechanisms, for the unorganized sector involving fruits, vegetables and other crops, including plantations.

Educating farmers on best crop management practices and improved strategies for nutrient management can enhance crop yields and farm profits while optimizing input efficiency and offering protection to the environment.

 

About Dr. T. Satyanarayana:


Dr. T. Satyanarayana is Director of the South Asia (SA) Program of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). Dr. Satyanarayana joined the staff of IPNI as Deputy Director, India Program-South Zone in 2008. Dr. Satyanarayana received his Ph.D. degree from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi in 2005. He received his M.Sc. degree at Dr. Y.S.P.U.H. & F. in Himachal Pradesh in 2001, and his B.Sc. Ag. from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in 1998. Previously, Dr. Satyanarayana was Deputy Manager-Business Development & Agri Technical Services, with Shriram Fertilizers & Chemicals, DSCL.


     
 
Agribusiness Development and Youth Training in Nigeria Through Education and Entrepreneurship
By IFA Editor on July 21, 2017
 



IFA:
What are your responsibilities and projects as a 2SCALE agribusiness advisor in Nigeria?

Thompson Ogunsami: I help coordinate and manage 2SCALE’s operations, staff and local consultants across 10 states in Nigeria. I identify agribusiness opportunities and multinationals to work with, contribute significantly to the selection of business ideas and develop a country plan for the roll out of 2SCALE activities in Nigeria.

The types of projects we run in Nigeria include: Facilitating value chain development for dairy, cassava, vegetables, rice, soybean, maize and groundnuts; and supporting public private partnership initiatives with leading firms such as Heineken, Nestle and the Artee Group.

IFA: What role can education and entrepreneurship play in developing agribusiness in Nigeria?
Thompson Ogunsami: Education is key for developing agribusiness in Nigeria and an important way to help farmers take a professional approach to agriculture. It has helped many people develop sustainable businesses in the sector.

An entrepreneurial spirit has enabled Nigerians to remain in the agricultural sector despite the challenges it poses. The knowledge they have acquired has given them ideas for agricultural startups, as well as shown them how to gradually increase profits while managing challenges and remaining focused on the prospects. Without learning opportunities and an understanding of entrepreneurial strategies, breaking even in agriculture would be difficult. Through this approach, 2SCALE has worked with 233 SMEs and 74,000 smallholder farmers in Nigeria (including over 3,000 youth and 35% women).

IFA: Can you tell us some more about 2SCALE projects that are focused towards, or have a component, for youth training?
Thompson Ogunsami: When we looked at our partnerships more closely, we found that youth were involved across many different segments of the value chain in various roles. In terms of specific areas for youth training, we decided to focus on developing commercial opportunities in farming and providing services to producers and other value chain actors.

One way to do that we identified was by improving access to finance for youth farmers within cooperatives. This was done by training bank staff and creating an environment for sustainable relationships between actors and financial institutions.

For example, LAPO Micro Finance Bank agreed to develop tailor-made loans for youth. The loans do not require collateral, but use other cooperative members as a guarantee instead.

Another example was the support given to the Kwara Youth Integrated Farmers Organization of Nigeria, across 16 local government areas of Kwara State in Nigeria, which works with youth cooperatives to upgrade their soybean production, a potentially very lucrative crop.

IFA: How can youth be encouraged to get more involved in agribusiness in Nigeria?
Thompson Ogunsami: One option is to use technology to improve the efficiency of agribusiness. Most youth are technology driven. This interest can be used to support the professionalization and efficiency of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.

Links between other sectors, like engineering and computer science, should be encouraged. For example, by building highly innovative agricultural tools, developing software for agribusiness service delivery etc. This would certainly encourage more youth to participate in agribusiness in Nigeria.

 

About Thompson Ogunsanmi:


Thompson Ogunsanmi is a Country Agribusiness Advisor for 2SCALE. Thompson helps develop, train and support agribusiness clusters in Nigeria. With extensive experience in in value chain development, planning, agribusiness, gender equity and entrepreneurship, Thompson has previously worked with GIZ, Olam and Cadbury Nigeria Plc.
 
About 2SCALE:


The Netherlands-funded 2SCALE program is implemented by a three-member consortium comprised of IFDC, ICRA and BoPInc. 2SCALE is an incubator for inclusive agribusiness that aims to improve rural livelihoods and food and nutrition security across nine sub-Saharan countries. 2SCALE offers a range of support services to private partners – companies and farmer groups – enabling them to produce, transform, and supply quality food products to local, national, and regional end-user markets, including base-of-the pyramid (low-income) consumers.



     
 
Bringing together the business community for healthy and sustainable oceans
By IFA Editor on June 26, 2017
 


IFA:
What is the World Ocean Council? What is its mission, and its priorities?

Paul Holthus, Founding President and CEO: The World Ocean Council (WOC) is a not-for-profit, non-government business organization. Its vision is a healthy and productive global ocean and its sustainable use, development and stewardship by a responsible ocean business community; and its mission is to bring together the multi-sectoral ocean business community to catalyze global leadership and collaboration in ocean sustainability and “Corporate Ocean Responsibility”.

As the only international multi-industry business leadership alliance on ocean sustainable development, science and stewardship, the WOC has a unique membership of companies from around the world and across sectors, and a growing global WOC network of more than 34,000 ocean industry stakeholders.

The WOC has created the Sustainable Ocean Summit (SOS) – the only annual global, multi-industry gathering developed by and for the business community and with a focus on sustainable development. The WOC SOS has become recognized as the international ocean business community conference on Corporate Ocean Responsibility. Its next meeting is coming up in Halifax, on 29 Nov-1 Dec 2017.

IFA: What are the emerging issues impacting oceans’ health and sustainability today?
Paul Holthus: With the growing use of marine areas by an increasing variety of commercial interests, there are increasingly complex risks from environmental impacts, cumulative effects, and conflicts in use. The best efforts by a single company or whole industry sector will not be able to address these challenges and opportunities.

The WOC is creating international multi-sectoral/multi-stakeholder “platforms” to tackle cross-cutting priorities for ocean sustainable development, e.g. ocean governance/policy, marine spatial planning, marine sound, pollution, the Arctic, marine invasive species, marine debris, marine mammal impacts, port reception facilities, the adaptation of ports and coastal infrastructure to sea level rise/extreme weather events, data collection by ocean industries (ships/platforms of opportunity), pirate fishing/fishery catch documentation and traceability.

IFA: What solutions does WOC advocate for?
Paul Holthus: The WOC is the only organization instigating and leading international, cross-sectoral ocean industry leadership through:
  • Creating the “Ocean Investment Platform”, a system for linking ocean industries, innovators and investors to accelerate investment in ocean sustainable development;
  • Addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by leading business community efforts to develop ocean industry targets and indicators;
  • Launching a global Young Ocean Professionals initiative for the ocean business community;
  • Developing regional multi-sectoral ocean business leadership groups.

IFA: What is the best way for the private sector to get involved in Ocean Sustainable Development?
Paul Holthus: The WOC brings together leadership companies that depend on the ocean to catalyse global leadership and collaboration in addressing cross-cutting issues in support of responsible business, reduced risk, continued access, and sustainable development. A wide range of ocean industry companies from around the world are distinguishing themselves as leaders in “Corporate Ocean Responsibility” by joining the WOC and getting involved in the ocean issue platforms along with like-minded peers from other sectors.

 

Note from IFA:


Read more about achieving Goal 14 by heading to our SDGs Page. Read more on Plant Nutrients and Ocean Health through our latest Agenda 2030 publication.
 
About WOC:


The WOC was launched in 2008 as a nonprofit organization to advance industry leadership and collaboration in ocean sustainable development, science and stewardship. The WOC is an international organization registered in the US and the UK.
 
About Paul Holthus:


Paul works with the private sector and market forces to develop practical solutions for achieving sustainable development and addressing environmental concerns, especially for marine areas and resources.

His experience ranges from working with the global industry associations or directors of UN agencies to working with fishermen in small island villages. Paul has been involved in coastal and marine resource sustainable development and conservation work in over 30 countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Central America and Africa. As a consultant on sustainable development and environmental management, he has worked with companies, industry associations, UN agencies, international NGOs and foundations on sustainability, especially in the areas of oil/gas, fisheries, aquaculture, standards and certification.

Past roles include: Deputy Director for the Global Marine and Coastal Program of IUCN – The World Conservation Union; founding Executive Director of the Marine Aquarium Council; Senior Officer in the Nature Conservancy’s Asia-Pacific Program; Senior Program Officer of the UNEP South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).



   
 
A more sustainable earth through productive agriculture
By IFA Editor on June 1, 2017
 

IFA:
As the Executive Director of the Global Harvest Initiative, how do you see the agricultural sector evolving over the next few years?

Dr. M. Zeigler: On Earth Day in Washington, DC and in many cities around the world, people marched to advocate for science-based care of the planet and the natural resource base. Those of us who work in agriculture and food security have a special role to play to ensure we meet the goals of providing enough food for a growing population, while ensuring that our planet and resources remain sustainable for the next generation.

To satisfy a peak global population of 9.7 billion people in 2050, agricultural economists project that total agricultural demand (food, feed, fiber and fuels) will increase by 60% to 100% compared with 2005 levels. 

Despite some recent calls to re-examine the projected demand for food in 2050, the organization I lead, Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) believes we must stay on track to nearly double agricultural output. But what matters is how we will actually grow the food, fiber and fuels we need!

IFA: How does climate change impact this mission?
Dr. M. Zeigler: First, we must work from realistic models that help us incorporate the climate impact on agriculture production. Climate change and the skyrocketing demand for livestock products must be considered when estimating future food production needs.

The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) compared 10 of the leading models for projecting food demand and found that world agricultural production of crops and livestock between 2005 and 2050 will need to rise by between 60% and 111%; demand growth will be particularly strong for ruminant products (cows, sheep) as well as for commodities used in the production of biofuels—sugar, coarse grains and oilseeds; and climate change will generate higher prices for agricultural commodities, especially crops.

IFA: What other factors affect the future food production levels?
Dr. M. Zeigler:We must reduce poverty, which comes about most effectively from higher levels of economic growth.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG8) lays out specific targets for the economic growth required to end poverty and hunger: in the least developed countries, this must reach at least 7% annual GDP growth.

If we are to realize UN SDG 8 with higher economic growth, we will in turn see higher demand for agricultural output in the developing countries, where there is presently insufficient agriculture and food production. Balancing the required economic growth with ensuring food and agriculture prices are affordable, particularly for those in countries that are vulnerable to food price fluctuations, will be key as we move forward.

IFA: What are the solutions to increase agricultural outputs in a sustainable way?
Dr. M. Zeigler: By improving agricultural productivity, not just total agricultural output, and reducing post-harvest loss we can meet global food demand while conserving natural resources and shift to a more sustainable model of agricultural production. GHI believes that doubling agricultural productivity from 2005 to 2050 is the right goal and is aligned with the UN SDG 2 target.




Productivity is not simply producing more food, or even achieving higher yields of crops. In agriculture, total factor productivity (TFP) is the ratio of agricultural outputs (gross crop and livestock output) to inputs (land, labor, fertilizer, feed, machinery and livestock) (Figure 1).

Revising the agricultural output goal downward may lead to decreasing investment in agricultural research and development, and may slow the pace of innovation reaching the field. These investments enable farmers to produce food more sustainably while conserving natural resources. Without these innovations, farmers, particularly in food-deficient countries, may put more land into production to increase output.



GHI has developed a benchmark tool, the GAP Index™ to track global progress toward doubling agricultural output from productivity (Figure 2).

         
Our data show that for the third straight year, global TFP growth is not meeting the required rate of growth of 1.75%. Most concerning is that for low-income countries, productivity is only increasing 1.31%, well below the UN SDG 2 target of doubling productivity.

Accelerating agricultural productivity, particularly for the low-income countries and small-scale farmers, must be at the core of a comprehensive strategy to sustainably feed the world. With more than 75% of the world’s poor heavily dependent on agriculture as their primary source of food as well as for income, agricultural development through productivity is essential to improving their food security, nutrition and incomes.

To access the GAP Reports® and other information on agricultural productivity, visit www.globalharvestinitiative.org

 

About Dr. M. Zeigler:


Dr. Margaret Zeigler is the Executive Director of the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI). She is a thought leader in the international agriculture and food security arena with expertise in international poverty alleviation, agricultural development, organizational leadership and program management. She has worked in non-partisan and multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration with a variety of food security organizations and institutions, including United Nations agencies, NGO’s, U.S. government and the OECD, regional development institutions, foundations and the private sector. Dr. Zeigler co-authors the annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) published by the Global Harvest Initiative, and is a regular media contributor. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Geography and International Development Studies and between 1997 and 2001 was an adjunct faculty member at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Washington, DC. She serves on the Scientific Advisory Council of the United States Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and is on the board of directors for the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD).
 
About the Global Harvest Initiative:


GHI is a collaborative private-sector voice to advance sustainable agriculture solutions for meeting the world’s growing demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel. As the global population increases to nearly 9.7 billion in 2050, along with rising incomes and changing consumer preferences, GHI proposes five key policy goals that will enhance global agricultural productivity while conserving natural resources.



     
 
On the occasion of International Earth Day, Dr. Deborah Hellums presents IFDC’s advances in fertilizer research in Africa and southeast Asia, and its mission to promote balanced plant nutrition.
By IFA Editor on April 21, 2017
 
IFA: As Director of Fertilizer Research for IFDC, what are your responsibilities and key priorities?
Dr. D. Hellums: I am responsible for guiding IFDC’s fertilizer research, which includes three major areas: Technology, with the production and development of new products and processes; Soil and Plant Nutrition, which entails research on soil fertility, increased nutrient use efficiency, and balanced plant nutrition and Economics, Policy and Trade, focused on private sector-driven fertilizer market development. This includes areas such as: research on the economics of fertilizer use by smallholders, the cost/benefits associated with the technologies that IFDC promotes, cost build-ups along the fertilizer supply chain, policy recommendations to reduce fertilizer costs and ensure quality, and activities that support ago-dealer development, smallholder associations, and market linkages.br /> br /> My key priorities for our research efforts focus on making sure our staff have the resources and equipment they need for their research, especially for the public good areas of our work. In addition, I help ensure that – whether working with our beneficiaries and partners in our field work or with the private sector – we are listening and responding to the needs of the client in a timely manner.

IFA: How is fertilizer research evolving? What current trends are IFDC identifying in this field?
Dr. D. Hellums: IFDC’s research focuses on smallholders in developing countries in Africa and southeast Asia. For many years, our efforts centered on increasing smallholder farmers’ access to nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizers, usually through promoting smart subsidies and voucher programs. Now we’re seeing the need for more than just N, P, and sometimes potassium (K) – the three primary nutrients.

We continue to research improving nutrient use efficiency (especially N efficiency) and best management practices, but IFDC is also devoting resources to promoting balanced plant nutrition, which includes fertilizer formulations that cost-effectively provide secondary and micronutrients in addition to the “big three” – N, P, and K. We are seeing positive results not only in terms of yield increases but also increased resilience to drought, disease, and salinity. Ultimately, when combined with the current breeding advances, we believe a balanced plant nutrition approach will improve the nutritional quality of the crops themselves, translating into the reduction of global malnutrition.

In addition to seeing a growing need for improved and balanced fertilizer formulations, we recognize the need for diversification of the crops for which nutrient solutions are developed. For many years, IFDC’s work has focused on increasing productivity of staple grain crops, such as rice, maize, and wheat – crops critical for food security. Now and in the future, it also will be important to focus on solutions for other crops, such as vegetables and fruits, especially because of their nutritional benefits. In other instances, cash crops, such as cotton, coffee, and cocoa, that are being grown by smallholders are becoming a part of the applied research agenda.

IFA: IFDC and USAID have very recently unveiled a new fertilizer in Kenya, which in addition to N, P and K, also contains Sulphur and Zinc. Why is it important to tailor fertilizer products for specific crops and soils?
Dr. D. Hellums: This new fertilizer formulation is one of a number that we are introducing in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia to meet various soil and crop needs. These new formulations are important because we are seeing very encouraging crop yield responses to sulfur and some micronutrients. Simply using urea, diammonium phosphate (DAP), and NPKs, as many smallholder farmers are doing, may not result in the maximum economic yield. As noted previously, it is important to tailor fertilizer products for specific crops and soils because we know that soils vary tremendously in their nutrient content because of weathering, the parent material from which the soils evolved, cultivation practices, etc. Virtually all soils are responsive to nitrogen and phosphorus inputs, and many are responsive to potassium, but we are now beginning to see yield stagnation and even reduced yields in many soils due to low levels of secondary and/or micronutrients. It is essential to start integrating secondary and micronutrients into new products to maximize crop yield and nutritional quality.

Also, we will need to look at how these nutrients are delivered. Because they are needed in much smaller quantities, it will be difficult to evenly integrate them and prevent segregation in blends. Researching alternate delivery methods, whether that be through a foliar spray or using another fertilizer product as a carrier, is an important part of our balanced nutrition approach.

We have a diversity of crops, and we have a diversity of soils, and ultimately, the aim is to match the crops’ needs with the ability of the soils to supply nutrients. The formulations and technologies we develop will play a crucial role in enabling soils and plants to reach their full potential.

IFA: IFDC has recently carried out fertilizer quality surveys in several SSA countries. What are the key lessons, and opportunities for IFDC and the industry?
Dr. D. Hellums: In West Africa, the fertilizers tested were in the solid form as either compound or blended fertilizers. Problems identified with quality were primarily more related to the blending process, not intentional adulteration. Since blending was not always properly done, the formulations had different or lower nutrient contents than what farmers thought they were purchasing.

We have expanded this research into similar studies in eastern and southern Africa where we are dealing with both solid and liquid fertilizers. We just completed a draft report on fertilizer quality analysis for Kenya, and we have also completed the chemical analyses for the fertilizers collected in Zambia. Currently, our staff is looking at the fertilizer sector in Uganda. There are differences among the various countries and regions.

The lessons that we have learned to date are that it is important for the neighboring countries to consider harmonizing fertilizer regulations to facilitate trade of quality products, but even if that is done, oftentimes national governments lack the resources for the manpower and laboratory facilities necessary to enforce the regulations and to ensure truth in labeling of the fertilizers on the market. It is important that farmers get the benefits they expect, since fertilizer inputs represent a major cost for smallholders.

For IFDC, the opportunity has been to work with various governments and regional bodies to harmonize the regulations so that some of the cost we see associated with restricted trade can be reduced, thereby reducing costs to farmers, and to help identify problems areas with fertilizer quality so they can be addressed. For the industry, it is important to ensure that the quality of the products they are bringing into the continent is maintained along the supply chain.

 

About IFDC:

Since 1974, IFDC has focused on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in over 100 developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise.
 
About Dr. D. Hellums:


Dr. Deborah T. Hellums currently serves as the Director of Fertilizer Research. Hellums has more than 30 years of experience in soil fertility research to support agricultural intensification in IFDC’s development projects. She has provided technical assistance to a number of IFDC’s projects focused on scaling out improved technologies that increase crop production on smallholder farms and contribute to food security in developing countries.



     
 
Making farmers’ voices heard in the global dialogue on food and nutrition security
By IFA Editor on March 30, 2017
 

Mary Boote, CEO and co-founder of the Global Farmer Network (GFN), works towards making farmers’ voices heard in the global dialogue on food and nutrition security.

IFA: What brought you to the GFN?
M. Boote: What is now known as the Global Farmer Network was started in Iowa by five Iowa farmers and myself in 2000.  The five farmers, original board members of the non-profit organization they began, were concerned that the farmers voice, which continues to hold much credibility with consumers, opinion leaders and influence makers around the world, was not being heard when debate regarding the importance of trade was occurring. That debate was raging in Washington, DC and in many other capitals around the world following the disrupted World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle, WA in late 1999.  Trade is an economic, national security and food security imperative. 

The original mission for the organization remains the same today:  To insert the voice of the worlds farmers in the global dialogue regarding food and nutritional security.

Personally, I have a non-straight career path but agriculture policy, farmers and politics have always played some role in what I do.  I have a passion to make a difference. Today, my role is focused on identifying and engaging articulate farmers from around the world who share our mission and are passionate about engaging on a personal level as well as be part of something bigger than themselves: the Global Farmer Network.

IFA: What are the Key Priorities of the GFN?
M. Boote: The mission is to insert the farmers voice in the global dialogue regarding food and nutritional security. Unique in its make-up and global approach to food security, the GFN identifies, engages and supports strong farmer leaders from around the world who can work with others to innovate, encourage and lead as full stakeholders in the work that is being done to fill the worlds food and nutritional security gap in a sustainable manner.

But it is broader than that.  In the social media/social concern world that we live in, the credibility of the ‘messenger’ has become as important as the message itself.  The vision, perspective and voices of the Global Farmer Network members are powerful and offer great credibility as they make the case for trade, access to innovation, education for farmers regarding progressive agronomic practices and the imperative of farmer advocacy – all backed up by their personal experience as they deal with the challenges of growing more food for a growing population, getting food and feed where it is needed, fight poverty and strengthen their communities. The Global Farmer Network works as a communication platform, allowing them to tell their stories.

IFA: What are the biggest challenges for the agriculture sector today? What role do fertilizers play? 
M. Boote: Listening to the farmers of the GFN, the most significant issues impacting farmers -regardless of where they live and farm are:  Labor; soil health; access to credit and regulatory barriers – impacting everything from trade (getting food and feed where it is needed) to ability to access the technology tools needed to maximize productivity and profitability in a sustainable manner.

Fertilizer access plays an extremely key role for farmers everywhere.  In places like India, GFN members tell us that access to simple soil tests that indicate the amount and type of fertilizer needed to maximize productivity is key.  In other areas, access to fertilizer itself is key and the ability to financially invest in appropriate fertilizer inputs is important to others. Clearly, access to precision agriculture tools that help farmers accurately and effectively apply what is needed -where it is needed -when it is needed is key to sustainable and healthy crop production.  Healthy soil supports healthy plants and ultimately healthy food.  Appropriate and necessary crop protection, partnered with sustainable agronomic practices, help us feed the growing population.

IFA: Farmers are on the frontline of a changing world…. How do they envision their future? 
M. Boote: It is interesting to me that, during a recent Global Farmer Roundtable program in conjunction with the World Food Prize, Dr. Nicholas Kalaitzanonakes, University of Missouri, facilitated the GF Roundtable and asked that very question:  How do you envision the future of agriculture? Without exception, every farmer from the developing world was extremely optimistic and saw a great future in agriculture production.  Each of the farmers from the developed world viewed the future of agriculture with pessimism.  You would think that the opposite would be true.  Understanding that everyone needs to eat – and with a growing global population and rapidly growing global middle class that would demand choice and a better diet for their families – growing enough nutritious food for all should provide a base of optimism.

When asked to expound on their answers, those from the developed world talked about encroaching regulatory barriers, politics and consumer concerns regarding food safety and nutrition as key elements of their view.  What all could agree to is the importance of the farmers’ voice in the world – putting a face on the people who grow your food.  Telling their stories.  Making those stories available through mediums where the world is getting their information and always being open to answer questions, inviting others to visit their farmers and sharing their perspective is – and will always be key – to feeding the world nutritiously. It is possible!  The farmers of this world are up to the challenge.  The Global Farmer Network is engaged in helping them tell their stories.

 

About M. Boote:

Mary Boote serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Global Farmer Network. Raised on a Northwest Iowa dairy, pork, corn and soybean family farm, she had the privilege of serving as an agriculture adviser to Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad from 1997-1999. Named as one of the Worldview 100: Global Industry’s top 100 Visionaries and Leaders in Biotechnology by Scientific American Worldview in 2015, Mary has had the opportunity to travel internationally on several agriculture leadership missions that focused on issues as varied as instruction on strategic planning and personal representation for privatized agriculturalists in newly independent countries to learning more about smallholder maize projects to observing the trade negotiation process at the World Trade Organization.



 
World Water Day: Clean water by 2030
By IFA Editor on March 22, 2017
 

On the occasion of World Water Day, Jack Moss the Executive Director of Aquafed, the International Federation of Private Operators, advises how to deliver clean water around the world.


IFA: What are AquaFed’s mission, goals and membership?
J. Moss: AquaFed is the International Federation of Private Water Operators. It connects private water service operators with all stakeholders at the international level to share their expertise and find solutions to the diverse water and wastewater challenges. It brings together over 400 private water and wastewater service providers from 40 countries. Membership is open to all private companies active in public water and/ or wastewater service management, or finance through contracts, joint ventures or licenses with public authorities.

AquaFed’s Members operate a wide range of water systems in many countries. These services range from simple rural systems using low-level technology to very large and sophisticated systems that require high-tech treatment processes, SMART networks and advanced data management. Because of the public interest nature of these services, private operators operate under the control of public authorities. This control takes the form of a contract or license. In addition, they are usually controlled by a range of regulators that supervise matters such as water quality, public health and safety, investments, revenue and environmental protection.

As information provider, AquaFed contributes to international discussions on the most important and urgent water related topics, ranging from the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation, through urban water and wastewater management, climate change and sustainable development to finance, regulation, governance and transparency.

Our Members help to ensure water and wastewater services perform well. These services are essential for everybody and necessary to protect the environment and public health, promote individuals’ opportunities and well-being, and support economic development and employment.

IFA: What are its key priorities?
J. Moss: AquaFed’s key priorities are to help the private service operators to deliver high quality sustainable services around the world. These services are provision of safe drinking water, and also collection, treatment and restoration of used water to enable it to be discharged safely back to the environment or reused in beneficial ways.

Wastewater management is often neglected, but is essential for the protection of the environment and humanity against waterborne pollution. In a water stressed world, water pollution makes scarce, usable water, even scarcer.

Further, AquaFed Members assist the public authorities in preparing for, and managing water related risks and disasters, particularly floods and droughts.



IFA: What, in your view, is indispensable if we want to reach Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “Clean Water and Sanitation. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030?
J. Moss: Water is a key to all dimensions of sustainable development: the environment, society and the economy. It underpins the ability to achieve all the SDGs.

Because water is the lifeblood of all SDGs, water management is of highest importance for reaching all 17 Goals by 2030. To reach Goal 6, stronger political recognition of the importance of water is essential. Managing water and wastewater requires long term stable political commitment.

A very significant increase in the level of financial investment is needed, to create and restore the vital water and wastewater infrastructure and to ensure that it is operated efficiently. High levels of engineering, finance, customer relations and other professional skills are needed to make the systems work sustainably.

Water pollution kills and maims individuals: people, animals, fish, birds, plants - all living beings. It harms the environment, societies and economies. Coping with water pollution requires much more political will, knowledge and technical facilities. The main causes of water pollution are man-made and are largely avoidable. They are agriculture, urbanization, and industry.

Today there is very little information or data on the damage these pollutions cause, but we know that as much as 90% of wastewater is estimated to be discharged to natural environment without any treatment. Efforts are required to both prevent pollution and to remove it from water that has been used so it is safe for the environment or for reusing it.

IFA: How do you see the role of the fertilizer industry in reaching this goal?
J. Moss: SDG 6 addresses the full water cycle including issues related to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene and also the quality and sustainability of water resources worldwide.

The fertilizer industry’s role in supporting Goal 6 will be to work with other actors to reduce the impact of diffuse agricultural pollution. The balanced use of fertilizers prevents runoff from the land, and therefore reduces the pollution of surface and groundwater resources.

Target 6.3 is designed to address these kinds of water pollution and calls for improving ambient water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials. Further, the industry needs to work together with other stakeholders to improve the water use efficiency and productivity in agriculture, which is related to target 6.4, and the need to feed a growing population (Goal 2).

Our industries, the fertilizer and the water sector, must work closely together to develop beneficial ways of reutilizing the nutrients and other useful resources that can be extracted from urban wastewater. The role of your industry working with ours in reaching the SDGs is therefore important.

 

About J. Moss:

Jack Moss has 30 years of experience throughout the world in the private sector side of the water services industry. He joined AquaFed in 2005 as senior adviser, contributing to its creation and international recognition. He has been the Executive Director since 2015.



 
Driving nutrient management in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
By IFA Editor on March 15, 2017
 

IPNI’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) Program consists of two large regions: Central Russia, and Southern and Eastern Russia, with a total area of arable land and permanent crops amounting to 204 million ha. The Vice-President of this region is Dr. Sveltana Ivanova, who spoke to IFA about her role, and her region’s challenges.




IFA: Can you explain what does your role of Vice-President entail, and what are your responsibilities?
Dr. S. Ivanova: When I began working for IPNI in 2007, it did not have any program in the EECA region. I opened the first IPNI office of the EECA in Moscow and created my team, that is still working with me today! My next step was to set up an effective program focused on providing scientific support for IPNI members for developing a fertilizer market in the region.

Currently, our programs consist of research projects, seminars and workshops, training for dealers and the development of printed materials in Russian. Every quarter, we issue and distribute our newsletter in Russian, a 22-page practical agronomy journal.

My responsibility as Vice-President can be summarized to two main functions: to identify opportunities in the EECA region, and to effectively implement the regional program aimed at increasing crop production and promoting proper fertilizer use.

IFA: What are the key characteristics of the region you cover, and the key topics you work on?
Dr. S. Ivanova: The EECA region is very large and covers all former Soviet Union (FSU) countries. It isn’t uniform in terms of agricultural development. We focus mainly on Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan as countries with the largest crop areas. These three countries also face similar issues related to plant nutrition and fertilizer use: a lack of up-to-date, science-based information on plant nutrition and proper fertilizer use in modern crop production; outdated fertilizer recommendations for traditional food, fiber and fodder crops and pastures; and no fertilizer recommendations for crops that farmers have recently started to grow, for instance soybean. Also, we have seen inadequate or unbalanced nutrient applications for P, K, S and micronutrients; inappropriate routine soil testing for P and K; and little to no improvement of acidic or sodic soils. >

Despite these challenges, we have seen a very rapid development of agricultural production in these countries, thanks to the emergence of large commercial farming operations. These farms invest a lot in new equipment, high quality seeds, agrochemicals and fertilizers.

We conduct our research projects directly on these leading farms, narrowing the existing gap between the current crop yield and attainable yield. This is why the results of fertilizer best management practices based on 4R Nutrient Stewardship obtained in regional IPNI research projects can be easily and rapidly implemented into practice.

IFA: Which challenges do you face in the dissemination of fertilizer best management practices, and the 4Rs?
Dr. S. Ivanova: In general, and according to my experience in the region, the principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship are accepted easily by professional agronomists working in large farms, and by the scientific community.

I believe however that the two biggest challenges for the dissemination and implementation of the 4Rs in the EECA region are related to the availability of the “right source” of fertilizers, as there is a limited number of fertilizer products on the market. The most popular products sold are ammonium nitrate and complex NPKs (triple 15 for instance). The second challenge is their ineffective distribution; which results in the absence of even simple single fertilizer products in some important agricultural regions. Quite often, we have to buy proper fertilizers for our research projects 500 to 700 km away from the location of the research plots!

IFA: Are you currently working on a specific project?
Dr. S. Ivanova: I’m currently working in cooperation with Phosagro on a special program focused on market development for new fertilizer products, such as S-containing fertilizers or liquid N and P fertilizers.

In addition, I continue to work on two research projects with high impact potential on the fertilizer market: the first is focused on intensification of northern forage production, which began last year on a large dairy farm in Vologda - Vologda is the key region for milk production in Russia.

The second project focuses on improvement of recommendations on potash fertilizer use and adjustment of currently used soil K test interpretation classes in intensive cropping systems. The results obtained in this project have allowed us to update our K recommendations for sugar beets, grain maize and rapeseed produced in Central Russia, and to develop new recommendations for soybean.

 

About Dr. S. Ivanova:

A native of Moscow, Dr. Svetlana Ivanova graduated with honors in 1995 and received her Ph.D. in 1999 at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. Her Ph.D. thesis examined the changes in the buffer capacity of forest podzolic soils to acids and alkalis under the influence of simulated acid precipitations. From 1999 to 2001 she was a research scientist in the Institute of Oceanology (Russian Academy of Science). She worked as agronomist from 2001 to 2002. From September 2002 to 2007 she was employed by JSC “Uralkali”, based in Berezniki, as a senior technical expert. Starting in 2005, Dr. Ivanova worked as coordinator of the China program of the International Potash Institute. In August of 2008 Dr. Ivanova joined the International Plant Nutrition Institute as Vice-President for Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. Throughout her career, Dr. Ivanova has been active in community and professional organizations, including the recent service as member of several task forces of the Agriculture Committee in IFA. She authored an impressive list of scientific publications as well as technical reports and presentations. Dr. Ivanova is a member of the Dokuchaev Soil Science Society of Russia.



 
The world’s first standard for rice cultivation
By IFA Editor on March 13, 2017
 

Dr Wyn Ellis, Coordinator of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), speaks to IFA about the world’s first impact-based ‘standard’ for Sustainable Rice Cultivation.



IFA: IFA: In 2015, the SRP launched the world’s first impact-based ‘Standard’ for Sustainable Rice Cultivation, can you explain what the initiative is?
Dr. W. Ellis: The SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation is the world’s first voluntary sustainability standard for rice. Developed over a 2-year period with broad stakeholder participation, it is an inclusive tool for practitioners in both public and private sectors. It is a compact standard, with 46 requirements structured under 8 themes, each aimed at achieving a specific sustainability impact.

The impact can be measured using a set of quantitative SRP Performance indicators that can monitor improvement and allow farmers to be rewarded for progress. The Standard aims to drive wide-scale adoption of climate-smart sustainable best practice among rice smallholders. In this regard, the Standard will serve both as a basis for a supply chain assurance scheme, and also as a working definition of sustainability that can inform policymaking

IFA
: What are the objectives, and which countries do you hope to impact most?

Dr. W. Ellis: SRP aims to drive wide-scale adoption of climate-smart sustainable best practices and resource use efficiency among rice smallholders. Our goal is to reach 1 million farmers by 2020. Our focus is on resource-poor rice smallholders, mainly in Asia but also in Africa and South America. Currently we are piloting the SRP standard in Brazil, Cambodia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam and also plan to launch new activities together with our partners in India and Myanmar. We are also in the process of establishing national-level Working Groups to manage implementation of SRP activities in key countries. We welcome the participation of IFA members in these national platforms.

IFA
: How is the implementation of the initiative going to be monitored/measured?

Dr. W. Ellis: SRP’s focus will be on impact achieved through adoption of best practice recommendations in developing countries. In-field, these are monitored using a set of 12 quantitative Performance Indicators (that are aligned with the SRP’s Standard’s 48 requirements and 8 themes) covering areas ranging from GHG emissions, water and fertilizer use efficiency and workers’ rights. As these performance indicators are mostly quantitative by design, they can serve as a practical way of measuring the impact of adoption of best practices.

Our targets are as follows: by 2020, SRP will have facilitated a 5% improvement in net farm incomes among participating farmers, along with a 5% increase in water and fertilizer use efficiency, and a reduction in carbon emissions of 700kt CO2eq per year.

In accomplishing these goals, we see an integral role for the fertilizer industry in bringing new resource-efficient technologies to small farmers, many of whom are using fertilizers sub-optimally.

 

About Dr. W. Ellis:

Dr. Wyn Ellis is Coordinator of the Sustainable Rice Platform, a global multi-stakeholder initiative, working to promote adoption of sustainable climate-smart best practice and resource use efficiency throughout rice value chains. The SRP recently launched the world’s first sustainability standard for rice.

He has 35 years’ experience in Asia, working with UN and other international agencies, governments, universities and corporate clients. His fields of expertise cover value chain standards and certification, organic agriculture, crop protection and agro-innovation. He holds a Ph.D. from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, and has authored numerous academic publications, book chapters and articles. He also serves on the Editorial Board of several international journals.



 
Overcoming zinc deficiencies in human populations through agronomic biofortification
By IFA Editor on March 1, 2017
 

Dr. Ismail Cakmak, winner of the 2016 IPNI Science Award and the 2005 IFA International Crop Nutrition Award, explains how the agronomic biofortification of food crops with zinc can help overcome zinc deficiency in human populations living in developing countries.



IFA: Congratulations for winning the 2016 IPNI Science Award! Can you explain the work that was recognized by this Award?
Dr. I. Cakmak: Thank you. We received this Prize for our long-term efforts in agronomic biofortification, or enrichment, of cereals with zinc. We work towards the objective of reducing zinc deficiencies in developing countries: our Program HarverstZinc, which IFA and other fertilizer institutions support, develops agronomic and fertilizer strategies to counter micronutrient malnutrition. HarvestZinc project has been developed under International HarvestPlus Program and coordinated by Sabanci University in Istanbul.

We’ve demonstrated that foliar zinc fertilizer application is highly effective to improve grain zinc concentration, to reach levels that meet human demand. We used high throughput analytical techniques (using ICP-Laser Ablation Spectometry and X-Ray fluorescence microscopy) to demonstrate that the late-season foliar spray of zinc to wheat results in increased zinc concentration in the endosperm fraction of wheat grain (i.e. the most consumed part of wheat grain). This finding has very important implications for the improvement of dietary intake of zinc in the developing world.

This fertilizer strategy works for a large number of countries, with diverse soil and climate conditions and also different cultivars of wheat and rice. We’ve found that soil zinc applications are very important to improve the grain yield of cereals on zinc-deficient soils. Soil zinc applications also contribute to grain zinc concentration; but not at adequate level for human nutrition. By contrast, foliar zinc application is highly effective in improving cereal grains with zinc at sufficient levels for human nutrition.

IFA
: How does Zinc contribute to plant health?

Dr. I. Cakmak: Zinc has critical functions in plant growth; about 10% of proteins in biological systems need zinc for their stability and function. Zinc is also required for the biosynthesis of proteins, and for better pollen viability. Plants that are deficient in zinc are highly sensitive to high light or radiation intensity, heat, drought and pathogenic infections. Plants having a good Zn status show better tolerance to pathogenic attack. In most cases, zinc deficiency in crop plants is “hidden”; it means plants show significant decreases in their yield capacity without showing visual zinc deficiency symptoms. Therefore, it is important to ensure and maintain a good zinc nutritional status in crop plants.

IFA
: What are the health benefits of biofortification? In which countries have you tested them?

Dr. I. Cakmak: Today, 2 billion people suffer from zinc deficiencies. This is due to the reduction in daily dietary zinc intake: cereals are inherently low in zinc; so populations whose consumption is cereal-based, namely in developing countries, receive far below the required daily zinc intake (e.g., 15 mg Zn per day). Zinc deficiency can lead to diverse health complications, especially for young children: it can lead to impairments in brain function, mental health, weakened immune systems and also poor physical development.

We’ve conducted field trials in 13 developing and transition countries, including China, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Laos, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Turkey. In these countries, we’ve also organized “zinc days”, to inform and educate growers, agronomists and students on the problems linked to soil and human zinc deficiencies. To our knowledge, several national research programs were started in these countries following these interventions, focusing on agronomic biofortification of food crops with zinc. We also stress the importance of zinc-enriched seeds for better seed quality and vitality, besides the human health benefits. Seeds with higher zinc concentration germinate better, have better seedling vigor and tolerate better environmental stresses.

IFA
: Are countries picking up on these biofortification efforts?

Dr. I. Cakmak: I think so, yes. We know of several on-going national research activities and MSc or PhD thesis projects that focus on agronomic and genetic biofortification. In some countries, governments are directly involved in HarvestZinc activities, and in plant breeding efforts of the HarvestPlus Program.

IFA
: What is next for your project, HarvestZinc?

Dr. I. Cakmak: Today, we’re also looking at iodine biofortification. It’s part of the third phase of HarvestZinc, which will last three years. Iodine deficiency is another common micronutrient deficiency in human populations, that also has severe health consequences and merits attention. Iodine deficiency is a particular micronutrient deficiency problem, because it occurs both in developing and well-developed countries. Our recent results show that foliar iodine spray is also very effective in increasing grain iodine concentrations of various cereal species. A very new paper on iodine biofortification of cereal crops is ready to submit to an international journal around these days.

 

About Dr. I. Cakmak:

Dr. Cakmak received his B.Sc. from Cukurova University in 1980; his M.Sc. from Cukurova University in 1981; and his Ph.D. from Hohenheim University-Stuttgart, Germany in 1988. Since 2000, he has worked as a Professor of Plant Physiology at Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey. Dr. Cakmak is well known for his research on cereal crops and zinc nutrition. He directed a multi-institutional project, funded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), on the issue of zinc deficiency in Turkey (1993 to 1998).

The “HarvestZinc” project was developed by Dr. Cakmak under the HarvestPlus Program to improve grain concentration of zinc and iodine in nine different countries (e.g. Asia, Africa, and South America). The focus was on using innovative application methods and novel micronutrient fertilizer combinations.

Dr. Cakmak has authored over 160 peer-reviewed publications, received over 18,600 citations (Google Scholar), and authored/co-authored seven book chapters. He has a Hirsch Index of 71 (Google Scholar), which is a very high value within his field. He has been recognized with several awards including the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Georg Forster Research Prize, 2007 Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Crawford Fund “Derek Tribe Award Medal”, the 2005 IFA International Crop Nutrition Award and the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey Science Prize. Since 2012, he has been an elected member for “The Academy of Europe” and “The Science Academy” in Turkey. Very recently, he has received the World Academy of Sciences Prize, 2016 in Agricultural Sciences.


About the IPNI Science Award:

The IPNI Science Award is intended to recognize outstanding achievements in research, extension, or education; with focus on efficient management of plant nutrients and their positive interaction in fully integrated cropping systems that enhance yield potential.



 
Training programs helping to meet the challenges of global food security
By IFA Editor on January 20, 2017
 

Dr. J. Scott Angle, President and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), speaks to IFA about IFDC’s international training programs and their plans for 2017




IFA: Can you describe some of IFDC’s various international training programs and how they help meet the challenges of global food security?
Dr. J. S. Angle: Training is an integral component of IFDC’s mission to increase global food security. We currently carry out two branches of training activities: field training through our projects and professional training workshops.

IFDC takes a comprehensive approach to field training. As it is commonly said, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so we work to strengthen all links in the agricultural chain. This includes building the capabilities of not only farmers but input producers and suppliers, agro-dealers, policymakers, and government representatives, among others. In 2015, our field projects in Africa and Asia trained nearly 900,000 individuals, 36 percent of whom were women, thanks to our cascading training-of-trainers approach. Agricultural development is often a long-term endeavor, and human capacity building is essential to accomplishing our goals.

IFDC has been holding international training programs since our founding in 1974. Since then we have held more than 700 formal workshops, study tours, and training programs, and since 2001, we have partnered with IFA to host several specifically for professionals in the fertilizer industry. Our specialized programs are geared toward strengthening the skills of fertilizer industry professionals and focus on technology transfer along the entire agricultural value chain. These programs include presentations given by staff from IFDC and other partner organizations, field trips to relevant locations, and built-in networking time to connect with individuals from organizations around the world. Since IFDC has been implementing professional trainings, we have served more than 11,000 participants from 150 nations. While each attendee has a unique experience, we craft both theoretical and practical takeaways. Many have contacted us years after their training experience to let us know the materials and knowledge are still relevant to their everyday work.

IFA
: How is the training implemented?

Dr. J. S. Angle: Most, if not all, of IFDC’s field programs include training components. Each project has varying goals and objectives, so training is tailored to those. For example, our USAID-funded West Africa Fertilizer Program’s (WAFP) objective is to improve the supply and distribution of appropriate and affordable fertilizers in West Africa. For this project, training looks more like working with agro-dealers to sell appropriate inputs to farmers in affordable bag sizes. For another project, such as our Scaling Up Fertilizer Deep Placement and Microdosing Technologies in Mali (FDP MD) project, we work with partners to train farmers to use improved fertilizer technologies to increase their cereal yields. So, each project’s goals require varying training approaches.

IFA
: What are IFDC’s strategic plans for 2017?

Dr. J. S. Angle: A strategic plan is currently under development. Development began with listening sessions around the world, hearing from elected officials, private companies, NGOs, farmers, and anyone else with an interest in what we do. The final plan will be rolled out in mid-2017. However, there are several elements that we know will be in the plan.

First, IFDC needs to enhance its scientific capacity. Traditionally, IFDC has been the source of new and novel ideas in the fertilizer industry. This capacity has eroded over the years, but we aim to invigorate both our basic and applied scientific abilities.

Second, we plan to contribute to the training of a new generation of professionals with expertise in fertilizers and soil fertility. All segments of the industry complain that they are having trouble hiring employees who have a background in these areas. Whether we are educating high school students through work at our headquarters or helping to establish a new master’s degree in Fertilizer Science and Technology at an international university, IFDC will be an important player in workforce preparation.

Last, we know we need to improve our ability to tell the message of the good work done at IFDC. In such a large organization, it is not easy to summarize the impact of our work in ways that are interesting to those who support our efforts. This is referred to as “Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning” (MEL). How do we tell the story of literally millions of farmers whose lives are better because of programs delivered by IFDC and our partners? We hope to become a model and leader in this area.

IFA
: IS there a particular region or country-focus for 2017?

Dr. J. S. Angle: Currently, IFDC focuses primarily on Africa, and this will continue. Africa is where the greatest needs and opportunities exist. Africa currently uses only about 10 percent of the nutrients needed to bring yields up to the world average. Where our programs have been implemented, it is not uncommon to see yields increase threefold, sometimes more. We currently implement other programs in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal. However, we believe needs and opportunities also exist in several areas of the world where IFDC has the capacity to improve agriculture. Southeast Asia represents an area where our expertise can support more efficient agriculture. The problems and needs are different from those in Africa, for example, often requiring different approaches to improve soil fertility with a focus on environmental quality. Haiti and several countries in Latin America can also greatly benefit from the technologies and information IFDC offers. We are currently exploring whether it makes sense for IFDC to initiate programs in these countries.

 

About Dr. J. S. Angle:

Dr. J. Scott Angle is president and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), a public-international organization providing solutions to alleviate global hunger and poverty through the promotion of sound agricultural technologies, economic development, and self-sufficiency.



 
Feeding the world in a sustainable way: the importance of nutrient stewardship
By IFA Editor on January 2, 2017
 

Dr. Harold Reetz Jr. presents his latest book “Fertilizers and their Efficient Use”, published by IFA


IFA: Your book explains what fertilizers are, and why they should be managed efficiently. Why focus on this topic?
Dr. Reetz, Jr: Because fertilizers help feed the world. They are responsible for approximately half of the world’s food production today. 48% of the global population lives thanks to the increase in crop production that was made possible by the widespread use of mineral fertilizers. The world’s population is estimated to grow to 9.7 billion in 2050, and its demand in food will continue to increase too, but in a context of shrinking arable land and climate change.

It’s therefore important for people to know what fertilizers are, how crucial for the global food security they are, and how to use them efficiently to avoid negative effects on the environment and improve farming profitability. This book is designed as a reference guide on their use for farmers and their advisors.

IFA
: A key concept in your book is nutrient stewardship, what does it entail?

Dr. Reetz, Jr: Nutrient stewardship refers to the management of plant nutrients in a way that improves the social, economic and environmental performance of fertilizers.

Readers will find an overview of key concepts of nutrient management, like the 4Rs, which entail applying the right nutrient source at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place, but also ways to implement these concepts! Recommendations on how to follow good science and the 4R principles are given throughout the book, such as testing soil or using enhanced-efficiency fertilizers (Right source); estimating crop nutrient requirements (Right rate); tracking weather patterns (Right time); placing nutrients next to the roots (Right place).

The book also presents innovative technologies in farming that have proven to increase and improve plants’ uptake of nutrients, helping increase productivity on arable land.

IFA
: What are the main takeaways from your book?

Dr. Reetz, Jr: Fertilizers, when applied following Fertilizer Best Management Practices (FBMPs), not only enhance crop production and farming profitability but also reduce their potential negative impacts on air and water resources. FBMPs fulfil four management objectives of productivity, profitability, cropping system sustainability and a favourable biophysical and social environment; a complete integrated farming system includes FBMPs, crop management, and all soil and plant nutrient management components.

The book also highlights the multiple environmental, economic and social benefits deriving from the 4R nutrient management framework, such as better crop performance, improved soil health, reduced environmental impacts, the protection of biodiversity, the increase in farmers’ profits, the reduced prevalence of hunger and malnutrition, improved rural livelihoods and stronger farmer communities.

  Find out more about the book by listening to our 2016 webinar with Dr. Harold Reetz, Jr. available on YouTube! “Fertilizers and their Efficient Use” is also available for download from our Library.


  About Dr. Reetz, Jr:

Dr. Reetz is an agronomic consultant and owner of Reetz Agroonomics LLC. which provides consulting services in agronomy, high yield cropping systems, precision farming technologies and on-farm research. He previously worked with the International Plant Nutrition Institute, as Midwest Director (US) and as President of the Foundation for Agronomic Research. He has focused his career on integrated crop and soil management systems for high yield crop production, promoting technologies for nutrient management and precision agriculture.



 
Reducing nitrous oxide emissions and nitrogen losses from fields with the 4Rs
By IFA Editor on October 19, 2016
 

Dr. Cliff Snyder, IPNI’s Nitrogen Program Director, explains the importance of implementing best management practices to reduce nitrogen (N) losses, and reduce nitrous oxide emissions from farm fields.



IFA
: Why is it important to reduce nitrous oxide emissions?

Dr. Snyder: Nitrous oxide is one of the three leading greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) which contribute to global warming and climate change. It has a warming effect (radiative forcing) about 300 times that of an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide has long atmospheric lifetime (about 120 years) and is the most significant emissions contributor to depletion of the ozone layer in our stratosphere.

Global emissions of nitrous oxide have been increasing. Emissions are estimated to be about 20% higher than what they have been over many past centuries. About 2/3 of the human-induced emissions originate from agriculture.

It is important to recognize that annual emission of nitrous oxide from most farm fields represents a nitrogen loss equivalent to less than 1 to 2 % of the applied nitrogen. Because fertilizer nitrogen (and manure) use is increasing globally, many believe there is a greater likelihood that nitrous oxide emissions will also increase, unless mitigation practices are more widely implemented.

IFA
: Does an increase of Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) result automatically in a reduction of nitrous oxide emissions?

Dr. Snyder: Improved crop or cropping system recovery of the applied nitrogen (one expression of nitrogen use efficiency) usually results in reduced risks of loss of nitrogen from fields via all the major nitrogen loss pathways (nitrate leaching, drainage, runoff; ammonia volatilization; nitrous oxide emissions; di-nitrogen emissions). Yet, because of the episodic and pulsed nature of nitrous oxide emissions - and the number and complexity of management and environmental factors affecting emissions – we have learned that increasing crop recovery of applied nitrogen may not, on its own, always reduce nitrous oxide emissions.

A clearer understanding of the local climate, weather, and soil conditions - and their dominating influence on the soil nitrification and denitrification processes that affect nitrous oxide emissions – can help us better optimize the 4R management (right source, rate, time, and place) of nitrogen application, to help minimize the direct and indirect losses of nitrogen as nitrous oxide.

IFA
: What is the optimal way to ensure a high NUE?

Dr. Snyder: Crop nitrogen recovery by major cereal crops in most farmer’s fields averages about 40 percent at the global level, but research has helped us understand that we can raise that recovery to 60 to 70 percent through better cropping system, conservation practice, and 4R nutrient management implementation. These levels can also be reached by farmers adopting best management practices (BMPs). It is important that other essential nutrients (P, K, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients) are adequate and will not limit plant nutrition, or impair nitrogen use efficiency.

The optimal 4R nutrient management program will differ by soil, cropping system, and environmental conditions. There is no single, magical solution to reducing emissions of nitrous oxide; especially while also striving to reduce the loss of nitrogen via other important loss pathways. Nitrogen loss via those other pathways (which can contribute to indirect nitrous oxide emissions) is often greater and causes much larger economic impacts for the farmer and his/her local community. The expertise of skilled agronomists and crop advisers is needed to help identify improved nitrogen management opportunities on a field-by-field basis in order to improve and sustain crop yields, soil fertility and productivity, and farm profitability; while minimizing all nitrogen losses, including nitrous oxide.An important example of fertilizer industry leadership in view of these considerations, is the Nitrous Oxide Emissions Reduction Protocol (NERP), initiated by Fertilizer Canada (formerly the Canadian Fertilizer Institute). NERP aims to reduce on-farm emissions of nitrous oxide in a verifiable way that allows farmers to earn carbon credits. The protocol, based on the 4Rs, is being deployed in the Province of Alberta.

 

  Find out more about 4R Nitrogen practices by reading IPNI’s new Issue Review entitled “Suites of 4R Nitrogen Practices for Sustainable Crop Production and Environmental Protection”, available here.


  About Dr. Snyder:

Dr. Cliff Snyder is the Nitrogen Program Director for the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI); and coordinates efforts to address environmental nitrogen challenges. He previously served as Midsouth and Southeast Director for the Potash & Phosphate Institute; and as state Extension Soils Specialist with the University of Arkansas. Cliff is a Fellow in the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy; and is a CCA. He received a Ph.D. in Soil Science and Forestry at North Carolina State University; and a M.S. in Agronomy (soil fertility) and B.S. in Agriculture (soil science) at the University of Arkansas.



 
Ten years after the Abuja Summit, the Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign carries on the commitments of the African Green Revolution
By IFA Editor on August 29, 2016
 

Professor Richard Mkandawire, Vice President of the African Fertilizer Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) explains the objectives of the Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign.




The Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign was launched in 2014 by a large coalition of partners: AFAP, AGRA, CNFA, IFDC, IITA, IPNI, IPI, One Acre Fund and IFA. Through the campaign AFAP, IFA and their partners work to enable smallholders to access to critical inputs and services, such as: soil nutrients/fertilizers; financing for purchase inputs; improved seed varieties; crop protection products; irrigation and crop insurance.

IFA
: Professor Mkandwire, why is this campaign important? What are its main objectives?

Professor Mkandwire: The fertilizer industry is called upon to increase linkages between agribusinesses and farmers, to open up domestic markets and get inputs to farmers on time and at affordable cost. The campaign is raising global awareness to the critical challenges faced by SMEs and smallholder farmers as catalysts for fertilizer value chain development in Africa, and to encourage the private sector to invest in them. In addition, 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution signed in Abuja, Nigeria in June 2006. During that Summit, African leaders agreed to improve the access of fertilizers smallholder farmers. Ten years on, a lot has been achieved, but gaps remain that need to be addressed, hence the call of the campaign.

IFA: The campaign was launched in 2014, in conjunction with the FAO 2014 International Year of Family Farming 2014 and the African Union 2014 Year of Agriculture. What is the situation like in 2016?
Professor Mkandwire: The farming situation in Africa has changed and continues to change, blending progress and challenges to attain continental food security. Over the last couple of years, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has strongly committed itself to support the transformation of African agriculture. Fertilizers feature prominently in their plans. This has ignited a new hope for the growth of the fertilizer sector and a strong signal to the financial sector. Strategic stakeholders, including governments, are beginning to demand innovative interventions that stimulate increased reach to smallholder famers with timely and appropriate fertilizers. There is clearly a coalescing of voices that demand more efficient, private sector- led approaches to be pursued to support smallholder farmers access and effectively use fertilizers.

The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an important development to the agriculture sector in Africa. SDGs 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere and 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture as well as SDG 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss directly address problems facing African farmers today. The fertilizer industry, in partnership with governments, needs to speak with one voice to achieve the objectives of the SDGs, which are an essential component to solving hunger and poverty in Africa.

In addition, policy makers in several African countries have understood the need for good governance when it comes to effective agricultural policies. Some are even contemplating the adoption of fertilizer specific policies, for instance Mozambique. Others, like Nigeria, are opening the fertilizer market to private sector participation. In the face of all these changes, AFAP is providing different approaches tailored to specific needs of countries to ensure the smooth flow of fertilizers from suppliers to farmers as well as financial instruments.

IFA: On 05-09 September 2016, the African Green Revolution Forum will take place in Nairobi, Kenya. What are the expected outcomes of this Forum for AFAP?
Professor Mkandwire: The African Green Revolution Forum is an African owned and driven agriculture platform, where African and global stakeholders come together, discuss policies and policy models conducive to the growth of the agricultural sector. Public and private sector officials are invited as well as representatives of financial institutions. This forum provides a great opportunity for all to act on the wide array of commitments by African leaders and the global international community in supporting an African owned Green Revolution.

This year AFAP and IFA are holding a panel discussion as a side-event at the Forum, which will take place on 06 September with the theme, “Seizing the Moment, Accelerating Fertilizer Usage among African Smallholder farmers”. Farmers, private sector representatives, policy makers and government officials are invited to attend to the panel discussion, where we will address the challenges of promoting the use and access to fertilizers in realizing Africa’s Green Revolution. We are also inviting SMEs to take part in this side-event, as the fertilizer access campaign is targeted directly to them and their feedback is valuable to us. We expect to come out with a strong message in support of our actions that will deliver fertilizer to our smallholder farmers and secure a food future for Africa.


  About Professor Mkandwire:

Richard Mkandawire is currently the Vice President of the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), a non-profit that works with the public and private sectors to make fertilizer accessible and affordable for African smallholder farmers. Before joining AFAP, Mkandawire was part of the leadership that drove the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), an innovative framework for agricultural development established by African nations and leaders. CAADP began as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty by growing agriculture. At CAADP's inception, Mkandawire played a critical role in engaging support for NEPAD’s focus on agriculture, and advocating for its acceptance by African heads of state and donor agencies. Mkandawire has received awards for his work on CAADP including the Drivers of Change Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Mkandawire came to CAADP and AFAP with decades of experience as a socio-economist and rural development expert. He earned degrees from the University of Malawi, the University of Missouri and the University of East Anglia. He has taught at multiple universities and is currently an extra-ordinary professor at the University of Pretoria.

Mkandawire continues to lobby for increased investments into the African Agricultural sector for reduced poverty and food insecurity.



 
Potassium: You cannot overemphasize its importance in South Asian Agricuture
By IFA Editor on July 18, 2016
 

IPNI’s Vice President for Asia, Africa and Middle East, Dr, Kaushik Majumdar, shares his insights on South Asian Agriculture.


IFA
: Why is it important to talk about potassium in South Asian agriculture? What is currently the trend in K fertilizer application in that region?

Dr. Majumdar: South Asian farmers apply inadequate amounts of potassium in crops and cropping systems, leading to yield and economic losses. The current trend shows significant negative balance (input - output) of potassium at local, regional and national scale, pointing towards large-scale mining of native potassium. At a broader perspective, depletion of native potassium in soils may adversely affect future food security and soil health in the region. This issue needs to be in the forefront of discussion to increase awareness of the farmers, scientists and the policy-makers.

IFA: What is holding back farmers from applying K fertilizer to their soils in South Asian countries? How can that be remedied?
Dr. Majumdar: Lack of awareness and last mile delivery of potassium fertilizers are two of the major issues that are holding back farmers from applying K fertilizers. There is a general perception at scientific and policy-making level that South Asian soils are rich in potassium and may not need external potassium application. This perception has percolated to the farmers through the extension specialists. This is a carry-over from the period when population was low, farmers used to grow one crop in a year, yields were low and adding a bit of nitrogen was enough to sustain the crop. Things have radically changed since then...farmers grow three crops in a year, using high yielding or hybrid varieties, producing yields that are three times or more than local varieties! Not applying potassium in such intensive systems is a very unsustainable practice. There is no dearth of field evidences showing large crop responses to potassium, and these needs to be highlighted to increase the awareness at all levels. Farmers often do not get potassic fertilizer at the nearest retailer shop during application time....so the last mile delivery and access to potassic fertilizer needs to be improved, along with awareness, to improve K consumption in the region.

IFA: What are the main takeaways from your presentation?
Dr. Majumdar: South Asia is one of the most highly populated region of the world. Access to affordable food for the large population in the region is a long-term challenge. To address that challenge, farmers of the region will need to produce more from shrinking land and water resources. That will happen only when crops receive balanced and adequate nutrition. Scientific evidences clearly show that declining factor productivity, low N use efficiency, and declining soil health in the region can be adequately addressed through balanced fertilization, and potassium will be the biggest plank for that. Contrary to general perception, potassium application in crops gives adequate return on investment in most locations. So balanced and adequate application of potassium in crops will benefit the farmers and the society now and in the future as well.

 

  About Dr. Mujamdar

Dr. Kaushik Majumdar is the Vice President, Asia and Africa Programs, of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), located at Gurgaon, India.

Dr. Majumdar has a Master’s degree in Agricultural Chemistry and Soil Science from BCKV University, India, and received his Ph.D. in Soil Mineralogy/Soil Chemistry from Rutgers University, U.S.A.

Dr. Majumdar has earlier worked as a Soil Mineralogist at the Potash Research Institute of India (PRII), and later, as the Deputy Director of Eastern India & Bangladesh for the Potash & Phosphate Institute of Canada-India Programme, and as the Director, South Asia Program of International Plant Nutrition Institute before joining his current position in 2016.

Dr. Majumdar has developed several fertilizer decision support tools, technical bulletins & training aids, and has over 70 national and international scientific publications. He was the President of the Agriculture and Forestry Sciences Section for the 103rd Indian Science Congress, and also serves at the editorial board of the Journal of the Indian Society of Soil Science.